Solemn Chapter of the Annunciation, 2023

Early this morning we had our traditional solemn chapter of the Annunciation. We have solemn chapter twice a year–on March 24 (the day before the Annunciation) and on December 24 (the day before Christmas). For March 24, a sister is asked to sing the account of the Annunciation to Mary from Luke’s Gospel, and on December 24 a sister sings the Christmas Proclamation. We know it looks like we had chapter in the middle of the night, but it was really about 6:30 AM.

Sister Mary Gabriel did a beautiful job singing the Gospel!

Sr. Margarita gave an excellent sermon centered on Mary’s fiat.

This is probably the last time you will see Sr. Margarita in this habit, because tomorrow she will receive our habit (same Dominican habit, just a different style) and her new name. We are all wondering what her name will be! Even Sr. Margarita doesn’t know for sure–she asked Sr. Mary Margaret to choose for her! We will try to post some pictures–and solve the mystery of the name–this weekend.

The ceremony will be at 10:30 AM in the same room you see above–the Chapter Hall. Please keep Sr. Margarita in your prayers as she concludes her retreat and prepares for a new beginning!

Queen of the May

Our May Crowning was on May 8 this year–Mother’s Day.

Sr. Mary Christine crowning Our Lady of the Pines with a beautiful crown of real flowers

Some of you may be aware that during May, our Monastery has a May Novena. And it’s not too late to send in your intentions! Please feel free to email them to us, and we will include them in our novena prayers throughout this month.

May Our Lady bless you in a very special way this month!

Year of Mary and the Eucharist

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, TX has declared that 2022 will be a year dedicated to Mary and the Eucharist for all of us here in the diocese. This has special meaning to us because Eucharistic devotion is an important part of our spirituality here. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed in our chapel from 8 AM to 8 PM every day, and each sister takes a turn praying with Our Lord truly present under this sacramental sign. We also welcome anyone who wishes to come and pray with us during these times.

It almost goes without saying that Mary is another big part of our lives! Each of us takes the name “Mary” as part of our religious name–usually just Mary but sometimes it’s Maria, Marie, Miriam, etc.–and cherishes a special devotion to the Mother of God, especially as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. We pray the rosary together every afternoon at about 2:40 pm (on Sundays we say it privately) and you are welcome to join us for that, too.

Dominicans through the centuries have been devoted to Mary and the Eucharist. Legend has it that Our Lady herself gave St. Dominic the rosary as a powerful prayer to help in his work re-establishing the Catholic faith in Europe. St. Catherine of Siena, it is said, lived on nothing but the Eucharist for the last few months of her life. Our own monastery traces its Eucharistic roots back to France, where a monastery of Dominican nuns established perpetual adoration and then brought this tradition to the United States when a foundation was made here.

We feel blessed to be a part of a year that will lift hearts and minds to Mary and the Eucharist–in the diocese of Tyler, Texas and hopefully in many other places as well. If you are in the Lufkin area, please come by and spend some time with Jesus–He’s waiting for you!

Solemn Chapter: The Annunciation 2021

The following is Sr. Mary Jeremiah\’s beautiful talk for our Solemn Chapter (or, as we like to refer to it, our Big Chapter) on March 24. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did! 

The first words we hear every day are–“The angel of the Lord appeared unto Mary….” And we return to this moment of the Incarnation countless times throughout the day.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee…to a virgin…and the virgin\’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, said, “Hail, full of grace\”….
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be…”
And the angel said to her in reply…
Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
We heard last Sunday morning at Office of Readings in the Letter to the Hebrews that angels are “ministering spirits…sent to serve [human beings], those who are to inherit salvation”! What a statement! These tremendous spiritual beings are sent to help us.
And, every year on the feast of the Archangels we hear St. Gregory the Great tell us that angels are messengers. The word Angel means “Messenger” in Greek, and Archangel means “Great Messenger” or “Super Messenger”. As Gregory continues, “We must also know that the term Angel means a function, and not a nature. For if the blessed spirits of the heavenly homeland are always spirits, they cannot always be called angels; they are Angels only when they announce something. Angels announce things of lesser importance. Archangels are those who announce the greatest, most important things. This is why it was not an angel, but the Archangel Gabriel whom God sent to the Virgin Mary. In such a ministry, indeed, it was fitting that the greatest of the angels should come and announce the greatest news.
“Michael means ‘who is like God?’ Gabriel, ‘Strength of God’; Raphael, ‘Medicine of God’. Whenever extraordinary power is needed, the Scripture tells us that it is Michael who is sent: his action and his name make it clear that no one can boast of doing what is reserved for the sole power of God. To Mary, however, it is Gabriel who is sent. It was thus necessary that it was by \’Strength of God that the Lord of the Armies, powerful in the fight, was announced who came to make war with the powers of darkness.”
The Angel Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible several times, all of which were events that would change the course of history in alignment for the fulfillment of God\’s Will in the world. So, I like to think of Gabriel as the Messenger of the Incarnation and Redemption.
The first time Gabriel is mentioned in the Bible is in the book of Daniel. He comes to help Daniel and God\’s people several times.
The next instance of Gabriel coming to convey a message is to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Luke tells us, “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him…the angel said to him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.'”
Gabriel is last mentioned when he is sent to speak with Mary. Mary was a young Jewish girl who was engaged but still a virgin. Gabriel comes a few months after he appeared to Zechariah, to reveal to Mary that she will be the one to carry the Savior of the World, and the one to fulfill the prophecies promised centuries earlier, of the coming Savior being born of a virgin.
In all of these examples, the people that Gabriel visits are at first frightened to see such a majestic being, but Gabriel not only brings messages of hope, he also comes in kindness.
We do not know if Gabriel’s “coming” to Mary was an external or internal vision, or only a locution, an inner word. Perhaps we should reflect more on the fact that the message is far more important than the Messenger, for as Hebrews says, “[The angels] are ministering spirits…to save us.”
Unlike Michael, Gabriel is not referred to as an Archangel. The Bible does not specify in depth what is rank is as an angel, but what he is called to do is of more importance than his title. When speaking to Zechariah he reveals that he stands in the presence of God, which emphasizes God\’s unwavering trust in him. It is also his role to convey knowledge of the coming Savior, exceedingly sacred messages to the people of God from God himself. As we said before, Gabriel means, “God is my strength” and it is evident that he lives up to his name, in relying on God to fulfill the messages he is given to deliver.
Gabriel is always a messenger of God\’s redemption of humanity. But we too are messengers, especially as nuns of the Order of Preachers. Our original title was “Preacheresses”. We usually do not preach the Word of God, the message of God\’s love for the world and the individuals in that world, but we proclaim it by our lives. We do use words with anyone we come in contact with–in the parlor, through letters, on the phone, when we go out to the doctor, and so on. But we especially resemble Gabriel and the angels when we PRAY. This is our vocation, our mission and our message.
The angels are spiritual, intellectual creatures. They can think of going some place or doing something and they are there–instantly–doing or inspiring it. We, through our prayers, can reach any place and any one in an instant, in a metaphorical sense.
As the angel is always before the face of God, in his Divine Presence, while even o mission–so are we, in a way, as we keep our adorations, attend Office and Liturgy, and engage in interior prayer throughout the day while going about our duties insofar as they give space for spiritual thoughts. But, even if we are writing letters or talking to guests, we can do this as ministers of Christ, in union with the Trinity. Therefore we must be focused; striving for unceasing prayer and union with God. We should keep guard over our thoughts so that we are not dragged off target by the logismoi, which is like falling into a swamp or quicksand. We need to be attentive to the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
A good messenger is one who gives her heart and soul to the message, that is, she has enthusiasm an proclaims that message with enthusiasm. The greater the One sending the message, the greater should be our efforts to be one with that message.
St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, and he says to us today, \”…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.\”
As Our Lady controlled her thoughts, for she was pure and immaculate of heart, so should we. May Mary and all the angels be with us today and always, leading us, and all our prayers, to Paradise. Amen.

Mater misericordiae (Mother of Mercy)

The title \”Mother of Mercy\” is familiar to most of us from the well-known Salve Regina, in which Mary is addressed as our Queen and Mother of Mercy.
Note that this is the chant used by Dominicans, and is completely different from the Gregorian version often found in parish hymnals, etc. 
Why do we call Mary our \”mother of mercy\”? It is a fitting title, because she was completely human, and yet born without Original Sin, thanks to the foreseen merits of her son Jesus. Mary could see all the flaws and faults of the rest of humanity, and look upon these with mercy and compassion, not because she had personal knowledge of these things, but because her sinless nature gave her the privilege Adam and Eve lost when they ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: she always knew the right way to act, and she did so. Her will was perfectly aligned with the will of God.  Just as God has mercy on all His children, always drawing them to repentance when they sin, Mary too is merciful. She is not God\’s equal, but she is the most powerful intercessor with God that we have. Thus, in this time when many would rather pursue what they believe to be justice rather than show mercy toward their fellow flawed human beings, Pope Francis made a wise decision in adding this petition to the Litany of Loreto. 
Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us!

Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May

We hope you have enjoyed this series of posts on Mary! It was a challenge at times to write about Mary\’s titles from the Litany of Loreto, since we chose the more poetic ones. But we leaned a lot by meditating on them, and we hope you did, too. 
Normally, we would have a blog post about our May crowning to finish things off, but we always do this on May 31 (feast of the Visitation), and this year the feast of the Visitation will not be celebrated because May 31 will be Pentecost Sunday. (We\’re still planning to have the May crowning, but it\’s going to be kind of simple.) 
There are more things coming up so do keep watching this blog! 

Help of Christians

St. John Bosco (or Don Bosco) had a great devotion to Mary under the title \”Help of Christians\”. In fact, he had a famous dream about how devotion to Mary and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament would one day completely prevail over the power of the enemy. 

In the dream, Don Bosco sees two great columns standing side by side in the ocean, with chains and anchors waiting. One column is Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; the other is Mary Help of Christians. As he watches, he sees a ship representing the Church trying to get to these two columns and there become safely anchored. But they are in grave danger of being defeated by an enormous number of enemy ships, equipped with all kinds of weapons. The Pope is the captain of the ship, and he strains to bring the ship between the columns, encouraging his brothers (priests, bishops, cardinals) not to give up. However, the Pope is seriously wounded. He gets up, but is killed by a second blow. The enemy has a moment of triumph, but they see to their dismay that the Church has elected a new Pope even before news of the former Pope\’s death was known. This new Pope is able to guide the ship safely between the columns and anchor it securely. A number of other, smaller boats join the ship, while the enemies are thrown into confusion, firing on each other, and eventually sinking. Don Bosco interpreted this dream as the attack of secularism on the Church. Although he had this dream in 1862, we can still see that the Church is under attack by the enemies of God. 

The Blessed Mother is celebrated under her title \”Mary, Help of Christians\” on May 24.

Mary, you are our Mother, who is always ready to help us when we are threatened in any way by the powers of evil. It may be something as terrifying as Don Bosco\’s dream, or it may be a seemingly simple desire to tell a \”little white lie\” or shoplift a candy bar. Help us in all things, so that we may one day guide the ships of our own souls in between the saving columns of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and Mary, Help of Christians.